Negotiating with a toddler

S used to love the water. When he was a baby, bath time was his favourite part of the day and when we moved to London I enrolled him in swimming lessons with Aquababies. Last summer we went to Goa and Cebu for my cousin’s weddings and he spent a lot of time chilling on the beach and in the pool, which he’d practically do running jumps into.

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But somehow after the summer we didn’t keep up with the lessons and going swimming seemed to have fallen by the wayside. That is until I got an email in November from Aquababies offering 50% off a block of 5 sessions, which prompted me to re-enrol him. Last Sunday was our first session. I started talking to S about swimming from the preceding Thursday and while he didn’t seem keen, he wasn’t totally against it either.

When we got to the changing room however, everything changed. I got ready first while he took in his surroundings and then attempted to get him ready but the boy was having none of it. “I don’t want to go swimming mama”. I knew once he got in he’d love it but I didn’t want to force him into doing something he really didn’t want to and who am I kidding? Anyone who has a toddler knows they have a mind of their own and there’s no forcing them (at least not happily) to do anything. So I told him he didn’t need to swim but I had to so would he come with me and just dangle his feet in the water? He seemed okay with that…except he didn’t need to wear his swim nappy and shorts then. So then I explained that to go by the pool area, you had to wear your pool clothes. He didn’t seem to buy it. To cut a long story short, I whipped out all my best arguments from my “toddler’s handbook” (including having a pretend conversation with my cousin to tell her to buy S 2 Peppa Pig cakes *cringe*). He finally relented and let me get him ready on the agreement that we wouldn’t use the hairdryer (very logical!).

We arrived at the pool and I got in but told him he didn’t need to so he sat on the sides (with his feet well away from the water). After a couple of minutes I put some water on his feet to show him how warm it was and a few minutes later when I thought he was ready, I picked him up, held him close and brought him into the pool…and he was fine. We joined the class 5 minutes late but at least he was in.

It took him another 5 minutes of clinging to me before he really started enjoying the class and when I say enjoying, I mean all I heard on the way home was “Mama I want to go swimming, I want to kick my legs…I want to go to the swimming pool”. *sigh*

Now I love these bad ass American TV shows like 24, Scandal and Homeland and it dawned on me that apart from not getting shot at or involved in car chases, sometimes being a mom is like playing Jack Bauer especially when it comes to negotiating with terrorists toddlers.

1. You have to give in to their demands before they give you what you want.
2. You never know if they are going to change their minds or go back on the “deal”.
3. There is often no logic to their demands.
4. They find your Achilles heel and know exactly how “exploit” it.
5. They know where all your buttons are and just how far they need to push them.

What are some of your negotiation tactics?

Mums' Days
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